Let’s start being positive about VET

As some of you know I have been out of commission for a couple of weeks due to an injury to my hand, and during this little break from writing, I have spent a lot of time reading commentary, writings and discussions about the sector.  Something has struck me from all of this reading and it is something that really concerns me.  It seems that a lot of the commentators, industry leaders, thinkers and just people in the sector generally are spending a lot of time complaining and focusing on the negative issues which seem to be surrounding us.  Why does this concern me? Well mainly because we know that what it is we focus on and think about is what we see and what we get.  So if we continually talk about what is wrong about this sector, what needs to be fixed, and what all of the problems are, that is what we are going to see, that is going to inform our viewpoint of the sector and more importantly it is going to infect the viewpoint of others about our sector. Don’t get me wrong here, I like everyone am guilty of being critical of the sector and sometimes we do need to verbalise criticism, but too often I think this critical view takes over, so I want to try to change that a little today and see if we can’t just be positive about the sector for a while.

First off I am really proud of the sector that I work in.  I feel privileged to work in the VET sector, this is a sector that changes lives.  I was at a conference recently where a lot of people (and a lot a highly placed people) shared stories about how this sector had changed peoples lives.  Like the (youngish) grandfather who had improved his reading so much while undertaking a VET course that he was now able to read stories to his granddaughter and the massive change in the way he felt about himself that this seemingly small thing had created.  The kids from generationally  unemployed families, in deeply impoverished areas, getting apprenticeships and breaking out of the cycles that had been their lives.  People with Mental illness getting qualifications and training to help them to be able to work with others with mental illness to help those people on their own roads to recovery.

What we do in the VET sector is important!

We don’t just issue pieces of paper to people, or fill their heads with knowledge, or teach them how to perform tasks.  All of that stuff is well kind of the boring stuff of the sector, the nuts and bolts that sit underneath what it is that we really do.  We offer people the opportunity to change their lives, to have the opportunity to do things they are passionate about, to look at the world differently and explore the opportunities that are there.

VET changes lives!

I am so grateful that I have been able to work in the learning sector, be it VET or organisational learning, or professional and personal development for so many years, because it fuels that passion and that idea that what we do is important and let’s be clear it is not just important to the people we teach.  The importance of what we do if is wider than that.  We have seen recently several reports about the return on investment created by the sector, the value of international education, and the range of other important things that this sector does for the country as a whole.

So I have a little challenge for you all, Whether you are from the public sector (TAFE), a private provider, a not for profit or and enterprise RTO, let’s even if only for a little while try to focus on the great things this sector does, let’s talk about and share the good stories, the life changing moments, the things that really matter, because if we do that then we will improve the sector and the image of the sector far more than we ever could by focusing on the negatives.

 

Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

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On the Redesigning VET FEE-HELP Discussion Paper

So as most of you are aware the Redesigning VET FEE HELP discussion paper was released on 27 April with submissions closing on 30 June.  So what I thought I might do today is have a look through the paper and discuss some of the propositions and statements in it and then see where we land after that.

As I have said many times previously, I think income contingent loans for a vital part of the educational landscape, they allow people to study things that they want to study, some of which may not have direct correlation to employment outcomes.  They also provide an opportunity for people, who without these processes may have not been able to upskill themselves in relation to job roles then may be interested in now, or in the future.

The first part of the paper goes through the purpose and reasoning behind VFH and how and why the system was extended into the VET sector from the higher education sector.  Also interestingly I think, it points out some of the differences between the two sectors which have, at least in part have been responsible for some of the problems the income contingent loan process has had in the VET sector which didn’t occur in the higher ed sector.  These differences are things like lower barriers to entry, lower graduate pay rates, competency based rather than a graded system, lack of formal semesters, with the preference being for rolling enrollment dates and a not insignificant number of VET enrolments where the student does not intend to finish the course rather their intention is to only complete a small subset of units, which has an effect on overall completion rates.

It also makes the point that the regulatory landscape surrounding VFH is quite limiting in terms of responses.  Non-compliance with ASQA and the regulations do not have a necessary impact on the right of a provider to payment of fees, the department had only limited powers of audit and information gathering and limited capacity to take compliance action for RTOs who had appealed ASQA decisions.  As it sates in the paper ‘until January 1 2016 the only relevant consideration for determining a providers’ payments was whether or not the providers’ student had an entitlement for VFH’.  In addition it looks at the fact that there was massive growth in VFH between 2012 and 2015 with the highest grow areas being those where the students could be considered to be most at risk or vulnerable.  There was a 649% increase in indigenous enrolments, 503% increase in very remote enrolments, 181% increase for people with disabilities and 172% increase for lowest socioeconomic status quintile.  In fact the lowest increase was in the highest socioeconomic quintile.  Now while this itself is not necessarily a problematic thing as it may point to more people, who would not have usually undertaken training, entering the system, it clearly should have been a red flag given the outcomes we know have occurred.  There was also a significant increase in tuition fees from an average of $5917 for a diploma in 2012 to $14018 in 2015 with VFH loan values doubling from 2009 to 2015.  This caused a massive disparity between the cost of diplomas under VFH and price various state governments were willing to pay in terms of funding for the same diploma.  A Diploma of Salon management for example with a smart and skilled pricing of $6,330 had an average VFH price of $32,941. The other issue that sat along side this, was the issue that a great many of the qualifications with the highest levels of enrollment had little or no actual links to employment outcomes.  A prime example of this is the Diploma of Community services where there is little or no job outcome as the vast majority of employers in the sector want people with a certificate III or IV in aged care or disability or similar as these are the qualifications which are required for the vast majority of roles.  The paper then goes on to discuss a range of other issues, including the dominance of the system by a very small number of providers, before moving on to look at the current and future reforms to the system.  It does appear however, that the 2015 reforms are having an effect on VFH providers with all areas of complaints (with the exception of debt dispute, which is a lagging indicator of previous poor performance) have dropped, in most cases significantly.  It is also acknowledged in the paper the capping of enrolments at 2015 levels may have had an effect on some ethical providers, but that it was necessary to reign in the soaring costs associated with the program.

So now let’s move on and have a look at the discussion questions posed.  The first question posed is whether there are additional eligibility requirements which might be necessary for the VFH system, with an additional question around administrative complexity in relation to LLN skills for potential students.  Now I am going to be a little controversial here because I think to a large extent both of these questions can in fact be answer quite easily.  Yes there should be an additional requirement for VFH students (which should if done well solve the LLN issue) and that is at a student not be eligible for VFH unless they have already successfully completed a course of study at Certificate IV or lower.  It is important I think to remember that is would not be a course prerequisite but rather a policy setting around eligibility for the VFH loan scheme.  If you have not completed a lower level qualification then you are not eligible for a VFH loan.

In terms of the lifetime loan limit for students I see no problem with it being part of and the same as the general Higher Ed FEE HELP system, providing of course there are some other refinements to the system put into place, particularly around the rising cost to students of obtaining a Diploma.  I have on a number of occasions suggested that the government rather than limiting the loan amount or price setting (setting a price that all providers need to charge) it rather needs to simply develop and publish, and force (through its VFH contacts) all providers in all of their materials to publish, a ‘recommended’ price.  I do however think that attempting to calculate this price, factoring in mode of delivery over complicates the process without adding significant value.   With this recommended price openly published providers can then still choose to charge whatever they wish.  Those who wish to charge lower than this may justify it by them being a TAFE or a not for profit or any other number of reasons, and equally those who charged a higher fee would then need to justify why their course costs where higher.  The justification process could also be one that was part of the VFH application process as well, where providers were asked to justify why their course costs were at the level they had set them if they were significantly over or below the recommended price.  I also think the concept of linking VFH funding levels to industry need, employment or pathways to further study has value.  A priority system (similar to that used in some of the states) could then be used to determine the level of VFH funding applicable to the course.  A level one priority program would have a VFH loan rate of 100%, Level two 75%, Level three 50% for example.

It is my opinion and one which I have held for some time now, that external, third-party brokers, should simply be banned from the VET sector.  They add zero value to system and only serve to drive prices up.  All marketing should be done by the RTO themselves and directly controlled by them.

Rather than simply a VFH ombudsman a far more elegant solution would be to  appoint a VET sector ombudsman, however it is acknowledged that given the way in which various powers are spread across the states this may be significantly more difficult to achieve therefore it seems that an ombudsman to deal with VFH.  It would be my suggestion that this simply be a short-term appointment to deal with the current issues with its continued necessity being considered after changes to the system had been implemented.

I am also in favor of provider cap of some description.  A provider should on application to utilise VFH estimate the number of VFH students they will have within the next financial year.  This initial estimate should be capped at a level not exceeding 75% of their current student enrolments.  This estimate process could then simply occur each year which any increase on the previous years cap of more than 10% requiring justification as to why the number of enrollment will increase that significantly.

In terms of quality measures the links between results of ASQA audits and non-compliances and continuing VFH approval should be significantly strengthened, with higher quality standards being applied to all VFH providers through the provisions of the contractual arrangements.  This should include student completion and progression rates and additional outcome measures around employment and further study outcomes resulting from the various courses of study.

It should also be the case that with any new standards/contracts that all current providers be required to reapply for VFH status under any new system.  There should be no providers who are simply moved to the new system.  The current system should be finalised at the end of 2016 and all students either given two years from their initial enrollment date to finalise their course of study or moved onto the new system where appropriate.  In addition there should be a legislative time limit placed on all approvals (no more than 3 years) which should also be at the discretion of the minister to alter or removed as deemed  necessary on a provider by provider basis.  All providers approved to deliver under VFH should be, as with most funding contracts with the various state governments, required to report their avetmiss data on a monthly basis.

I think the current tuition assurance system is solid though there needs to be stronger links between the government and the providers of the schemes in order to ensure that students are provided with the range of protections which they require.

It is and continues to be my position that upfront payment of fees is in general a mistake and the system should be moved to a model which is more reflective of completions rather than commencements.  A fuller discussion of this can be found here.

Anyway that’s my opinion.

 

Labor want a review into the VET sector in Australia

So the big news around the place this morning is the announcement from the Federal Labor Party that if it wins office in the next election it will launch a major review into the Vocational Education and Training sector in Australia.   A full review of the sector is certainly well over due, particularly as we have seen the amount of funding provided to the sector decline over the past few years and certainly not keep up with the schools or university sector.  However, it needs to be an actual proper review.  A review that puts aside our entrenched bias, ideological and political agendas and simply focuses on one key question, what do we need to do in order to ensure that the VET sector in this country is able to provide value for Australia for many years to come?  Now the rhetoric in the announcement about evidence based approaches to policy making and the terms of reference for the review which can be found in the Shadow Ministers press release seem promising at least in terms of an impartial review , but will we really get that?  We have seen both Labor and Green politicians jump on the ‘Stop TAFE cuts’ bandwagon, which is being heavily pushed by the Education unions with both parties already in various forums suggesting that the answer to problems in the sector is to simply pour more money into TAFE.  So I would call on both Bill Shorten and Sharon Bird to emphatically promise us that any review into the  VET sector is actually an impartial one.  One that is prepared to BBQ sacred cows if that is what turns out to be necessary.

So how can this kind of impartial review be undertaken in a way which will convince the sector that it is transparent and not simply a justification of pre-existing ideologies.  Firstly there needs to be representation from all of the parts of the sector public and non-public. The terms of reference need to not preference any particular part of type of provision, which they currently seem to.   There needs to be a chair or whoever is tasked with leading the review who is truly impartial.  The person needs to be someone who the sector can trust is not driven by ideological commitments, someone who does not have commitments to either the public or non-public parts of the sector.  An academic perhaps, I think would be suggestion a number of people could make, however again I would caution this choice as  as we have seen from a lot of the writings of the academics in the sector at the moment there seems to be, at least to my mind,  a bias towards public providers and I a not insubstantial amount of cases connections to either the education unions or the public VET sector.   I actually think that in order for this to be a fair, impartial review that whoever leads it needs to be from outside the sector, preferably with few, if any actual links to it.

Any kind of advisory panel associated with the review also has to be well-balanced and consist of both those from industry and the provider side of the picture,  BUT  please not just the big players.  I for one am sick and tired of seeing advisory panels in this sector stacked with managing directors or the like of very large providers, massive industry groups and worse union leaders or worse academics who have no idea of how the sector works as they have never actually worked in it.  Given that when we take the big players both public and private out of the picture the average provider has less that 750 students there is a massive disconnect if the only people who advise the government are the large providers. And the same goes for industry groups, there needs to be representation from those people at the coal face of employing graduates from the sector and to be honest I have really understood why the unions actually need to be at the table at all in these discussion but that may just be me.  Too often these kinds of reviews become rarefied academic affairs rather than something which produces an actual tangible and usable model for the future.

If Labor, or any other party is going to do this then they need to do it properly, they need to put aside their politics, ideology and sacred cows and undertake a review that looks impartially and transparently at what this sector needs going forward and if it doesn’t produce recommendations which match to what they would have desired they need to suck it up and actually do what is good for the country and sector.

 

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

Total VET Reporting – Lets talk about the figures.

So as some of you may have noticed I have had a little break from my usual posting schedule, mainly due to spending most of the last 2 weeks working with an organisation to delivery some initial TAE training to a large group of their staff.  Of course while I was having a break we saw the release of the Total VET students and courses data 2014 and a number of other documents which relate to it including Equity groups in TVA 2014, both of which I found to be very enlightening reads.  There have already been a couple of responses to the data, most notably Rod Camm’s which to me was quite reasonable, but I thought that I might look at some of the things which jumped out at me.

The first thing that really did leap out at me as I started to look through the data was, what part of this data related to VET FEE Help and what related to everything else and then I saw in explanatory note 30 – ‘It is not possible to identify VET FEE-HELP assisted activity by funding.’  Now I have to admit that this let me down a little when I read, because one of the things I was really interested in looking at in the data was the relationship between VFH and other kinds of funding, but as we can’t currently identify it there is not much that can be done.

So what are some of the figures which I found really interesting; firstly it was the break down of the actual number of students,  3,908,000 students enrolled in training with 4601 Australian providers, or 849 students per provider on average.  Let’s look closer at this however, as a lot has been made of the break up of figures between public and non-public providers and the effect that non public providers are having on TAFE admissions, with non-public providers servicing 57% of students.  What is not often considered, when we hear people talk about this is the massive disparity in the number of public vs non-public providers.  There are 57 TAFE institutes training 1,065,600 students and 2865 non-public providers training 2,252,900 students or 18,700 students per TAFE vs 786 students per non-public provider.  These numbers bear thinking about, at least to my mind, whenever public providers suggest that they don’t have enough students to make ends meet.  Even at a figure of say $2,000 per student, in terms of revenue that is over $35,000,000 on average for a TAFE as opposed to $1,500,000 on average for a private provider.  Now I know that I am talking in averages here and that there are big, small and medium players in both parts of the sector, but I still think it is interesting to consider.

The majority of students were male over the age of 25, which I personally found interesting because our student demographics are more slewed towards female participants. This has a lot to do with the fact that the vast majority of the training we deliver is in community services, where around 85% of the workforce is female.

What about the programs these students are undertaking, 30% of all enrollments were in Certificate III level programs and 86% of all programs completed were at a Certificate I-IV level.  This I think says something very important about the system that we have and that at its heart it is focusing on the right thing, that is, those programs that really are going to make a difference to people’s employment outcomes and their workforce participation options.  Business and commerce was the area in which most people studied, followed closely by community services.  While it has been suggested that the amount of business and commerce training being undertaken relates tightly to the VFH, its marketing and the perceived ease of deliver of these courses, and while we can’t see what amounts of these courses were funded using VFH or at least not from these figures, general business skills are deeply embedded in most of the things that people do so having a high percentage of people here may simply portray the market.  This could also be said of community sector qualifications, which are the second most popular.  The community sector is one of the largest employment areas and one in which the need for workers continues to grows.  It could be suggested that if areas like these were not high on the list that this may well be far more concerning than the current situation.

Another of the figures which I found quite interesting was in the equity group data.  By far the two largest equity group accessing VET were students from a non-English speaking background and students from rural and remote areas, with their participation rates being much higher than indigenous students or students with a disability.  Again within these groups we see that the overwhelming majority of students as with the general student population are undertaking certificate I-IV level programs, which as I said above is I think a good indicator that the heart of the system is targeted properly.  As we would also expect in a system where the vast majority of training delivered is around entry-level job roles, government funding made up around 60% of the way in which people ‘paid’ for their training with fee for service making up the rest.

So are there any disturbing pieces of data in this report.  In my honest opinion, when we consider that this is the first time this data has been collected and we don’t have a lot of previous data to base assumptions on, I don’t think there is.  I think the big thing is that this data needs to be improved and perhaps integrated with the data collected around VFH and other programs and then sliced and diced to give us a better picture of what is happening as will also happen as we accumulate data sets over a number of years and can begin to make comparisons.

Anyway that’s my opinion.

An enormous thank you to everyone

I just wanted to say an enormous thank you to all of you my readers, both directly via the blog and those who contribute to the conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter.

When I started this blog a number of years ago,  back in 2011 as a bit of a thinking and conversation place for myself mostly around organisational learning, there was no way I ever thought that it would grow into what it is today, one of the most read blogs on Vocational Education and Training in Australia, with such an outstanding group of people who offer their own insights and commentary on the subjects and topics I talk about.  I have gained so much both personally and professionally from little project.

I am deeply humbled when I look at the number of people who visit this blog every day and the number of those people who choose to comment and interact either here on the blog itself or on LinkedIn or Twitter.

I like so many others of you believe deeply in the importance of the Vocational Education and Training sector to Australia’s future and ongoing prosperity.  It is easy at the moment to get caught in the darkness and the negativity and to fail to see the amazing work that so many people and organisations both public and non-public do in this sector to really help people, to change their lives. Everyday I hear stories of how VET has changed people’s lives and taken them to places they never imagined that could go and it makes me proud to part of it.

And while I am saddened by the activities of such a small proportion of sector, who put their own wealth over the outcomes that are possible for so many people who utilise vocational education. I am deeply proud to be associated with and be friends with so many outstanding people whose sole  goal is to provide Australians with the best possible educational outcomes.  I feel an enormous sense of privilege to not only know you all to one extent or another, to have so many of you read my sometimes a little ranty musings, but just to be able to work in this sector .  A number of years ago at the Australian Training Awards I was asked what it was that had kept me involved in Learning and Development and the VET sector for so many years.  My answer was simple, because when I wake up and go to work, I know in my hear of hearts that we are doing something good, something worthwhile, and something that changes people’s lives.

I still believe that and feel that way today, what we do matters, it changes lives, it creates futures for people and hopefully makes us better people in the process as well.

So to all the friends I have made along this journey, my readers, be they regular or one-off, all of the people who comment and offer their views, the people I agree with and those who challenge and argue with me.  Thank you and I look forward to us all continuing this journey for a long time to come.

Senate Report into Private VET Providers

So as most of you are aware the Senate Committee has recently release its Report into the operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia.  So I thought I would take at look at the report and some of the recommendations and put some thoughts and comments on it out there.

My first comment is on the membership of the committee which with 2 ALP, 2 Greens, 2 Liberals and one National Party member, does seem to be, just on initial observations slightly weighted to the left of the Australian political spectrum.  Not that this should in essence make a real difference one would hope, however as regular readers of this bog would note I have been quite critical of the very one-sided view of the VET sector which seems to be held by the Greens and in particular Senator Lee Rhiannon.  One would hope however that party political concerns could be put aside in these cases and that sensible and well-considered analysis of the facts and information be the central theme of the report.  Of course those of you who make it through to the end of the report will of course see that the Greens could not help themselves and had to make their own set of recommendations which only serve to show their lack of understanding of the sector and unwillingness to move from there uninformed (or shall I say informed by the AEU and others of that ilk) view that the only problem with the sector is that there are private providers and that TAFE can solve everything.

The actual report itself makes 16 recommendations, most of which at least on the surface seem fairly reasonable.  Now it is not my intention to look at each of the recommendations in detail, but rather just to comment on some of the major ones and some of the ones which might be viewed as little more controversial.

Recommendations 1-4 are just really common sense in my opinion, it is blatantly obvious that there needs to be a serious review into the VET FEE Help system, the providers utilising it and that methods of controlling the costs associated with these loans, particularly what could be termed as bad debts be considered.  I myself tend towards regulation around the actual upper limits which can be charged for various courses rather than a simply lowering of the overall threshold or some other method.  Insisting on certain prerequisites such as year 12 or equivalent may have an effect, but I fear unless rules like this are spelled out in intricate detail, all that will result if a repeat of the LLN skills requirements which was of course no barrier to unscrupulous providers.  Lowering the repayment threshold is also not a viable consideration as it does unfairly target those who are already in vulnerable financial situations and for whom a qualification may be of the most worth.

Recommendation 5 hits the nail on the head for me, as I have stated in other pieces there needs to be far better education of VET sector consumers to attempt to ensure that the ability of those unscrupulous elements to take advantage of uneducated consumers is reduced.

There are a range of similar themes running through the rest of the recommendations, most of which talk about regulation of the system and how this might be better achieved.   That there needs to be a serious and effective investigation of current providers is obvious in the extreme as is the fact that there needs to be some form of regulation of the brokerage market.  My opinion on brokerages is well know, in that I simply believe that in the vast majority of cases they serve no purpose other than to simply increase the price of a qualification and provide commissions to resellers who have little or no skills in relation to the sector.  It would be my personal position that I would rather the use of brokers for VET FEE Help programs be disallowed under legislation much as it is in relation to other government funding.  A particular example of this being the contractual arrangements around the QLD Vet investment plan subsidies where RTOs are prohibited from using brokers to recruit students.  This would in one fell swoop put an end to the brokerage industry and put the onus of ethical recruitment directly back where it should be, on the RTO and not require the need for additional regulation to be developed for brokers.  Removing brokers from the system would also I believe slow down considerably the flow the money to providers who were large users of brokers and also the more unscrupulous providers who rely on the ability of brokers to provide them with a continuing stream of new students. The concept of minimum standard hours while interesting is not one I think that would either be able to be administered in any way that made sense or have any real effect on completion rates and the ability of providers to manipulate the system.

The biggest single issue that I see within the sector at the moment is irresponsible, unethical and outright illegal marketing and student recruitment practices and most of these practices could as I have said above be resolved by the removal of brokers from the system.  On the general issue of quality of providers, I would make an open call particularly to those media outlets, like the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The ABC who have constantly bought up negative stories on the sector, which when one looks look at the content of, generally focus on a very small number of providers and then makes sweeping judgments about all providers, to actually come and look at the outstanding work being done in this sector by private providers.  I of course know that this will never happen because well that doesn’t sell does it.

I am also completely in favor of the concept of the a Training Ombudsman whose sole role is to deal with complaints and as has been suggested before close the loop, between providers, students, governments and the regulator so that everyone involved knows what is going on and is fully informed.

One final thing and this is that with any of these reports there is always a necessity to look at the background and agendas not only of those serving on the committee, but also of those who made submissions and how those submissions were interpenetrated by the committee, what information was taken out of them and in what context.  This is of particular note with respect to the information supplied by ASQA’s data and reports, where a casual viewing of the data may in fact be used to show something that a more in-depth review of it may not.  It is also of note when one considers the additional comments and recommendations provided at the end of the report by the Greens.  It is clear from these statements that the Greens came into the committee with a particular viewpoint and agenda and have in no way sought to be further informed or to change their ideologically motivated view in any way.

 

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

 

A Federal system for Vocational Education?

I for one have been for a long time now a proponent of the Federal government being in charge of Vocation Education in Australia, so as you might expect I have reacted quite well to the news recently that there seems to be once again support for this notion both Federally and by the States.  As I said I have for a long time thought that a set up where the federal government is in charge of the regulation and funding of a national system of vocational education makes sense.  It should make it easier to navigate the morass of funding that currently exists and changes whenever you attempt to work across state boarders whether from an RTO perspective or from an organisational perspective.  Having a single set of rules and criteria would certainly make a difference.

One of the significant things I think having a Federal system would do is to change the States from being on both the provider and funder sides of the equation.  Currently all of the states fund VET in their state, however they also provide vocational education through their network of TAFE institutes.  Moving all of the funding for the delivery of training to the Federal government would have the effect of TAFE becoming another provider in the market, simply a provider which is owned by the State government and the state government could then determine from its overall budget what amounts it wanted to allocate to the resourcing and infrastructure of their TAFEs.  It would see a transparency around what money being given to TAFE from the State government was actually being used for.  Now that is not to suggest that a federal system might not earmark a certain amount of money for delivery by public providers, but what it would do is clear up the sometimes muddy waters around what is support for delivery and what is support for infrastructure.

The other significant thing it would or should do is as I said at the start even out the currently differences in what is funded and to what level.  As I said a couple of weeks ago I was amazed when I found out that in Victoria every AQF qualification is funded, the amount of money simply varies, which is unlike Queensland and other states where funding is allocated to what is seen to be the needs of that State in terms of skilled workers now and into the future.  Having one set of funding rules across the country would work for everyone, it would make it easier for organisations (particularly those who work across the entire country or a number of states) to access funding for their staff training, which is as anyone who has ever worked in a L&D role in such an organisation will tell you is currently a brain melting nightmare.  It would work well for providers both niche and large.  For example we are one a small number of providers who deliver a particular qualification, currently someone from Queensland can obtain the qualification for around $100 (it is funded in QLD), where as someone from NSW (where it is not funded) would have to pay $3,500 for the same qualification.   The management of funding contracts at a provider level would also be much easier, no longer perhaps having to produce multiple reports for different states with different rules and requirements.  A federal system should have the effect of smoothing out a range of the issues which currently make funded programs across states difficult to manage for everyone.

So what are the downfalls, well there could be some issues where their might be a mismatch between the needs at a national level in terms of skills and the needs at a state level.  On a nation level there could be a shortage of appropriately qualified aged care workers say but WA might have a massive over-supply.  Conversely there could be no national shortage of plumbers but serious shortages in QLD.  Not that these kinds of issues could not be relatively easily addressed, it is just that given that we are such a large country it may be the case that such differences arise.  Although on a side note seeing these differences at a national level rather than at a state level might encourage the federal government to provide incentives for say aged care workers in WA to move to other states or plumbers to move to QLD.

I also don’t think a federal system would affect programs like for example Skilling Queenslanders for work, where the additional money in the program is not going to providers but to community organisations to support the learning activities of their cohorts.  There kinds of programs could still be funded on a state by state basis dependent on need, the funding source for the provider would simply change for the state to the federal government.

It would or should remove this ridiculous situation we currently have where while most of the providers in the country are regulated by ASQA, two states still regulate a portion of RTOs in their state.  All providers both public and non-public would be just that providers for a national system, providers with one set of regulations and one set of rules around funding.  I for one really hope it gets legs and gets over the line.

 

Anyway thats just my opinion.

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